A week ago, Brandon Durnell was accepting the award as the senior male athlete of the year for his college. Now, he is a varsity basketball coach at a prime spot in the area.
This DOES NOT happen. But I am so glad that it has.
The hiring by East Noble of Durnell as their next boys basketball coach is a game changer. There is a mold that has kind of been set when it comes to area high schools and making basketball coaching hires, whether it is a spoken or intentional one or not. There are very few schools and athletic directors willing to take a big swing and a big chance. That is what East Noble is doing by looking past the stigma of “experience” and willing to hire a young, energetic and knowledgable candidate.
Not to say that Durnell doesn’t have experience because he does have it. So let’s not even get ahead of ourselves there. Yeah, you can learn a lot about yourself as a coach on a high school daily level and that is something that athletic directors salivate about more often than not. Durnell’s experience isn’t typical of a varsity coach hire and that is not only perfectly fine to me, it is ideal in certain scenarios; East Noble is one of those.
I didn’t even need to talk to Durnell to know that this was the right hire. But, of course, I did chat with him and it made even more sense afterwards.
One, how can you not like Brandon Durnell? His personality and energy is contagious and already, that lends itself toward being a catalyst for any program, especially as the the Northeast 8 Conference continues to get tougher boasting state contenders in each of the past two seasons.
As I have had the chance to talk about Durnell’s hiring with others, I have used the same three words to describe why I like this hire: youth, energy, knowledge.
The knowledge end, you will have just to have some trust on. But Brandon Durnell knows this game and he knows it well. He has played under and worked with some really solid and some great basketball minds. Knowing he comes from a lineage where he was coached by Chris Johnson at Homestead is huge, but he also picked up quite a bit in college under Ryan Cottingham – who has been with that program over 20 years – and on the AAU scene under Chase Sanders, who’s TPE teams are always among the most fundamental and fun to watch each summer.
He has gotten to see a little bit of everything during that time. Talk to him for five minutes and you’ll hear what I saw for many years watching him play: Durnell is always soaking things in. His eyes are constantly moving, he is constantly thinking and reading the floor.
“The best part is all three of those coaches are different,” Durnell told Outside the Huddle on Wednesday. “Coach Johnson taught me the importance of IQ, film and keeping the game simple. Chase Sanders taught me the importance of holding yourself and others accountable and really taught me how to work hard and what to work on. Ryan Cottingham taught me the importance of finding my purpose and culture and how having a great culture outweighs having great talent every single time. I do thank all the other coaches and mentors that have impacted me throughout my career.”
Durnell has also got to cut his teeth coaching under Sanders in the past and now helps head up the Summit City Elite program, but it is almost more intriguing that he has such a fresh base to be able and establish his own style. Durnell doesn’t have to be like these other coaches because he isn’t and he is also getting his start in a completely different way. Who is Brandon Durnell as a varsity high school basketball coach? Whoever he wants to be.
The second of those words I use for him is energy. If you meet Brandon Durnell, there are few people who bring as much genuine energy and fun to the gym whether he is in serious mode or otherwise. That is something, as a young coach, that will really draw players to him and make the kids at East Noble want to be involved in the program year after year starting with the younger kids in the feeder program that he will have a chance to keep developing.
And that third word – youth – it scares a lot of people. Durnell becomes the second youngest varsity head coach in the history of the state of Indiana at age 21. The only person who has done it younger? Ira Hinshaw was Monrovia’s head coach at the age of 17, all the way back in the 1915-1916 season.
There are going to be detractors of this hire and there always would have been no matter who the hire would have been. But let me tell you, youth isn’t a bad thing. Like I said above, there is no mold for Durnell at this point and that is what youth brings in a beneficial way. Sure, he will have some lumps. Most new coaches at schools do. Every coach who is just starting out their career or varsity career does. But Durnell, when he hits those bumps, doesn’t have to be stuck in his ways. It is a luxury really that he can establish himself, who he is and what East Noble’s personality is as he goes.
Does plan A fail? Then choose to stay the course, endure and thrive or choose to abandon it for plan B. Most coaches don’t have that luxury or comfort in making a switch or in forcing their way through tough situations. Most coaches feel that things have to be done in a certain way. But Durnell, as I said, can be anyone he wants to be as a coach. You don’t get that 10, 15 or 20 years in. Youth is very wonderful luxury to have.
We will all get the chance to look back at Brandon Durnell’s hiring at East Noble in a couple of years and truly grade this one out. Nobody knows how things will go for him and the Knights. But today, fresh off the announcement of this hiring, count me in for it. This really could change a lot of things about area hoops and I’m all in on making things fresh.
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